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Reviews The Twentieth-Century American West: A Potpourri. By Gene M. Gressley. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1977. Foreword, preface, illustra­ tions, footnotes, index. 232 pages, $12.00.) Social, cultural, political and economic historians have thought and written a great deal about America of the present century, but only in rela­ tively recent years have they devoted much space to events beyond the wide Missouri that occurred after Professor Turner said the main excitement there had ceased. Too long have these frontier historians, an extremely conservative and sometimes myopic band of scholars, taken the view that the land between that fabled river and the Pacific Coast was conquered and domesticated as a natural part of the westward movement, after which it dutifully accepted its role as a colonial appendage of the older section of America and, except for occasional lapses in conduct, lived quietly ever after. Gene Gressley’s thoughtful essays deal with the notion of colonialism — and much more. That engrossing topic, one that has interested the Wyoming historian for some time and about which he has written previ­ ously, is discussed in detail and with copious references. DeVoto, Webb, Mezerik, Garnsey, Howard, Berge, Kraenzel and others already have given their attention to the subject but here, in this handy volume, one will find a concise yet comprehensive treatment that will be useful to those not having adequate library facilities, or for students who like to have their information packaged, and even pre-digested. The colonialism chapter is sufficiently general to make a good introduc­ tion for the various essays that follow. Utilizing documents, letters and memoirs deposited in the excellent collections at the University of Wyoming Library, many of which Gressley himself has gathered on his travels across the West in search of source material, the author offers in-depth, penetrating views of men who made contributions to business or governmental history related to the West. Foreign investment in western enterprises, about which Turrentine Jackson and Clark Spence have told us much, is touched upon in a chapter dealing with European financial interest in the Salt Creek, Wyoming field. Closely related to resource extraction is the subject of 84 Western American Literature conservation and reclamation; here Gressley draws upon materials at hand pertaining to Arthur Powell Davis and his work in these areas. More details on subsurface probing for energy, and the need for conservation of oil, are found in his essay on George Otis Smith, chairman of the Federal Power Commission and former director of the United States Geological Survey, a man whose ideas, as set forth in the 1920s, are of much interest today. Of national scope also are the essays about Wyoming’s senior senator, Joseph C. O’Mahoney, and Thurman Arnold, a Wyoming boy who later made it big in Washington, particularly in his role as head of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department during early New Deal years. Perceptive readers of this fine volume will find that what Gene Gressley has to say about the earlier years of this century is highly applicable to current western and national issues, and if they read with care they will understand environmental and energy problems much more thoroughly. Even better, they will have enjoyed the learning process enormously in this very well written, finely drawn piece of scholarship. ROBERT G. ATHEARN, University of Colorado The Thin Mountain Air. By Paul Horgan. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977. 312 pages, $8.95.) The Thin .Mountain Air, Paul Horgan’s new novel, may remind one of any number of initiation stories. “Richard” (the Richard of Things as They are and Everything to Live For) has reached manhood in the East. He accepts the New England code of duty and service that his father follows. But when his family moves to Albuquerque, New Mexico, because of his father’s health, he is separated from his people and he undergoes an initiation experience on a New Mexico sheep ranch. The ranch is an anti-pastoral experience. Against ironic quotes from Virgil’s Georgies, Richard learns to shear sheep whose wool is matted with filth. And one of his fellow shepherds, Buz Rennison, demonstrates the art of pursuing shepherdesses...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 83-84
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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